Weave – gold standard for service delivery
WATERLOO: Weave Youth & Community Services is a non-profit community organisation that has been working with disadvantaged and vulnerable young people, women, children and families in the City of Sydney and South Sydney area for over 40 years.
The range of services provided is remarkable: practical support, housing referral support, counselling, mental health services, drug and alcohol support, assistance to get a driver licence, access to education and employment opportunities.
Greg Benson is the interim CEO at Weave. He commenced work in May, in anticipation of co-founder Shane Brown’s long-service leave.
“For two-and-a-half weeks Shane and I were attached at the hip,” Mr Benson said. “I absorbed as much as I could, with so many people to meet. It’s incredible the number of relationships Shane has built over 35 years!”
With a background in youth work – in south-west Sydney and south London – before roles in juvenile justice prevention and intervention, then a stint at Family and Community Services, Mr Benson is eminently qualified.
“My role at Weave is very much a custodian role,” he said. “The programs [11 in all] are working very well. That’s because they are designed in collaboration with the community, and because the support networks are vast and strong. My focus is on building Weave’s systems to demonstrate our impact in the community. That’s what I can contribute.”
Weave’s annual report reveals just under 2,000 one-on-one supports in 2016-17. As well as activities for local young people, programs include Tutoring, Driving Change, Weave Community Hub (supporting the Woolloomooloo community), the Women and Children Centre, and Creating Futures Justice (helping those exiting custody return to the community). There are also special events to mark Youth Week, NAIDOC Week and Mental Health Month (Mad Pride).
Staff (55 in total) are thrilled to have received renewed accreditation for the organisation. The gold-star standard for services excellence was awarded to Weave in recognition of high community and stakeholder involvement, strong systems of governance, highly reflective and “trauma informed” practice.
“We take a strength-based approach to practice,” Mr Benson explained, “[which] takes complexity seriously – how we communicate, how we build resilience, how we celebrate, and how we learn from one another. How we encourage and inspire one another. It’s about empowering people to change their own lives.”
A three-year strategic plan aims to maintain community-informed advocacy in the face of increasing gentrification. The focus will remain a concern for the most vulnerable, including young adults no longer able to afford housing in an area they nevertheless call home.
Mr Benson is particularly concerned for young people leaving care or custody who, at 18, often face steep challenges from a sudden loss of social services and community support. In the context of changes to the Waterloo community and a higher-population density, he argues, mental health services must be improved and increased.
“Of course, the influx of private owners and renters also brings opportunity for support of programs – donors and volunteers motivated by a common vision of cohesive, caring and healthy community.”
Late in the afternoon, Mr Benson is walking towards Redfern station, his shirt sleeves rolled up to the elbows, his hair slightly wet. “I’ve been playing basketball,” he said. “That’s what I love the most, time like that with young people, just enjoying the time together.”